Build Your Immune System Naturally

Bowls of yogurt topped with fruit demonstrate a healthy diet.

In addition to social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, simple changes in diet can help boost your immune system and keep you as healthy as possible. Obviously if you are feeling ill, you should consult a medical professional. But if you are feeling OK and just want to be more prepared to fight any virus, there are natural ways to help boost your immune system:

Apple Cider Vinegar

Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink this blend once or twice each day. According to some health professionals and a lot of “old wives’ tales”, apple cider vinegar may change the pH balance of the body, making it less welcoming to viruses. While the research is inconclusive, I know that if I feel like I am fighting something, and I drink diluted apple cider vinegar, I feel better and usually avoid getting whatever is trying to make me sick. Be sure to drink it diluted, though, as otherwise it can harm your teeth.


Honey is an immune-building powerhouse, full of antioxidants and antibacterial and antifungal properties. According to experts, raw honey is better because it hasn’t been pasteurized, which destroys some of the phytonutrients. One caveat, however: you should never give honey to a baby (under 24 months) because of the risk of botulism. But for older children and adults, honey can boost the immune system, help with sore throats and healing wounds, and ease digestive problems. Add a tablespoon to the diluted apple cider vinegar for daily support.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic provide more than just good flavor to your dishes. They are filled with phytonutrients that boost the immune system. Like honey, they have antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and they also are great for your cardiovascular system. Onions also have a gentle antihistamine effect when you have a cold. Add them liberally to whatever you are cooking!


Ginger is another flavorful ingredient that does more than make food delicious. It has anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that can help soothe digestive issues and sore throats. Experts believe that its antimicrobial properties can also help ward off bacterial or viral infections. Make ginger tea by cutting small chunks or shavings of ginger root and boiling them in water to your desired strength. Add honey for an extra boost!

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

While all vegetables are good for you and contain phytonutrients that work with your immune system, dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale, deserve a special mention. They are loaded with vitamin C, folate and other antioxidants that ward off infection and support a strong immune system. Saute these veggies with oil and garlic, add them to soups or salads, or use them as the base of a smoothie to make them a regular part of your daily diet.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.) are a great source of vitamin C, which can help keep you healthy during cold and flu season. Experts agree that they also are a healthy source of fiber and potassium, and that they can help keep your body hydrated. Eat them fresh or drink their freshly-squeezed juice, and add them to salads to help keep your immune system strong.

The best medicine is and always has been a healthy diet. During these uncertain times, the only thing we can do is try to keep our bodies as strong as possible, so that we have the best chance of avoiding critical illness. Use these tried-but-true methods to ensure your immune system has as much support as possible.

Recipe to try: Le Pain Quotidien Chia & Coconut Pudding

A couple of weeks ago I was in the mood for chia seed pudding, something I had tried in Denver with my youngest daughter (shout out to Molly!) and loved so much that it took on a mythical quality…especially since I could never recreate it at home.  But this day was different.  I found a recipe in the Le Pain Quotidien cookbook by Alain Coumont and Jean-Pierre Gabriel (2013) that was topped with a beautiful passion fruit sauce.  With only four ingredients total, this recipe seemed easy, doable, and delicious.  If it came out anywhere near as yummy as the pudding I’d had in Denver, it would be a keeper!

The pudding was simple:  5 T chia seeds stirred into a 14 oz. can of coconut milk.  My problems with chia seed pudding in the past all had to do with it staying too runny, but this time it started to set immediately.  I poured it into ramekins and popped them in the fridge.  It was completely set in a couple of hours, and even though I did not serve it until the next day, it’s good to know i can be made more quickly (should I be desperate for a little fix…)

There was no passion fruit at the store, though, so that tasting will have to come later.  I replaced the passion fruit with a combination of yellow mango, raspberries, and pomegranate seeds.  The recipe called for the fruit to be added to 4 T agave syrup, brought to a boil and then immediately reduced to a low simmer for 5 minutes.  The combination of the sweet mango with the sharper raspberries and pomegranate was delicious, though I might use fewer pomegranate seeds if I did it again. I think this is one dessert where a wide variety of fruits could be used, with delicious results!

I would definitely make this one again!  Here is a link to the full recipe: